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Fort Meade Update

Background History:

In 1994, a 100-acre site located in the U.S. Army Base at Fort Meade, MD was transferred to the U.S. Congress to provide additional storage capacity for the Library of Congress and other legislative bodies. The current master plan includes the land to construct up to 13 Phased Storage Modules for collections, if this number is needed.

In subsequent years Congress provided construction funds in the Architect of the Capitol budget for Module 1, completed in 2002, for Module 2, completed in 2005 and Modules 3 and 4 and four cold storage rooms, completed in 2009.  A full scale three year transfer program of the special format collections to Modules 3 and 4 and the four cold storage rooms began in Spring 2010 and was completed in September 2012.  Module 5 is currently under construction, and occupancy is scheduled for September 2017.

The state-of-the art Storage Modules are being built to store, preserve and protect the Library’s collections. Collections include books and bound periodicals as well as special format collections, such as maps, manuscripts, prints, photographs, sheet music, and microfilm masters. If needed and constructed, the 13 collections storage modules will provide a total of 180,600 gross sq ft of archival storage space for the Library’s collections.



Design and Construction

The storage modules are being designed and constructed in phases, so that additional storage units can be added when necessary. The design of the buildings focuses on reducing the risk of damage to the collections by considering temperature and humidity control, air quality, selection of proper building materials, lighting levels and fire protection.  The optimal dry and cool environmental conditions in the storage modules will increase the life expectancy of the collections six fold, from 40 years on Capitol Hill to 240 years at Fort Meade.

The design of the storage modules is based on the Harvard model for storage of collections. This high-density model provides extremely efficient storage space by arranging materials by size rather than subject matter on 30-foot high shelving units. The high-density storage configuration allows for 125,000 cubic ft of materials to be placed within a footprint of 12,000 sq ft.

Stored materials are accessed using a man-operated lift that travels along narrow aisles.

Construction has been completed on the first 4 of a possible 13 collections storage modules for the Library of Congress to be erected on that site, as well as four cold storage rooms. By the close of calendar year 2012, Library and contract staff  had completed the transfer of Library collections to Modules 3 and 4 and at present continue the transfer of collections to the cold storage rooms.  In addition to the storage modules, the Modules 3 and 4 construction project also included a work area in which staff can prepare new special format materials for storage, a new loading dock, and an isolation room to monitor new acquisitions for pest infestation.


Environmental conditions of the storage modules

All Ft. Meade storage modules feature optimum environmental conditions for paper-based collections. The HVAC system provides a stable temperature of 50ºF/10ºC (plus or minus 2.5ºF) and a constant relative humidity level of 30% (plus or minus 5%) year round.  Temperature and humidity sensors are located at 3 different heights above the floor.

Maintaining tight temperature and humidity level control within a space with ceilings over 30 feet high, requires a well-distributed air system. Supply and return air are ducted to each aisle to provide good air movement and circulation.

To minimize the effect of external temperature and humidity fluctuations, the exterior walls consist of thick pre-cast concrete panels with rigid insulation. The well-insulated wall and roof assembly reduces the cooling load and dehumidification requirements of the mechanical system.

Even colder temperatures will add years to the life of film-based media. Design of Modules 3 and 4 includes four cold storage rooms, (three at 35ºF/1.6ºC and 30% RH) and one at 25ºF/-3.8ºC and 30% RH), which will protect and preserve between 400,00 and 500,000 microfilm masters. To avoid condensation of materials coming out the cold storage rooms, a staging area at 50ºF/10ºC and 30% RH has been built to allow items to adjust to 50ºF/10ºC, before being transported to Capitol Hill.

In addition to maintaining controlled temperature and humidity levels, the HVAC system also ensures the proper control of particulate and gaseous contaminant levels within the storage space to over 90%.

To prevent the exposure of collections to natural light, the storage modules are designed without any exterior windows or skylights. High-pressure sodium light fixtures that emit very low levels of UV provide artificial lighting within the modules. The lighting levels are designed to maintain 2 ft candles at the lowest shelving level.

Maximizing Space

Modules 1, 2 and 5 (not yet constructed) were designed to store and preserve primarily books and bound periodicals, with a small percentage of special format collections in Module 2 and planned for Module 5. Books are stored by size, not by intellectual content. Books of the same height are packed together in boxes. All boxes of the same height (there are 10 different box sizes: 5 widths and for each one, there is a low and a high box) are placed together in double rows on 36 inch deep shelves.

In Modules 3 and 4 shelves have been designed to house customized containers containing various special formats, including tri-dimensional objects, as well as large boxes and cartons.  In addition to the shelving units, Modules 3 and 4 have map cases up to five feet high, with over 12,000 drawers to house maps and prints.

Module 1, with 8,500 square feet of space, is now filled to capacity with 1.6 million books from the Library’s general collections, Area Studies and Law Library.

Module 2, which opened in May 2005, with more that 12,000 sq ft of space, is also filled to capacity, housing approximately 1.9 million books.

Modules 3 and 4, each with 12,500 sq ft, house special format collections, including 10 million manuscripts; 2.3 million prints, drawings, photographs and posters; 2.1 million music sheets; 542,000 maps and 1.8 million items of American Folklife collections.

When filled to capacity, the four cold rooms will house 6.5 million negatives, transparencies and color prints, as well as approximately 500,000 reels of microfilm masters.




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  June 10, 2017
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